Courtesy / UTSA Special Collections
That day in 1910 when the first plane appeared in the blue skies over San Antonio was the start of a long history of innovation and daring in civil and military aviation and aerospace that would begin here and forever change the course of an industry.
In 2016, the Dee Howard Foundation began honoring the individuals and groups who put San Antonio on the map of aviation history. And on Thursday, it will again highlight those contributions by inducting four people into the San Antonio Aviation and Aerospace Hall of Fame.
Entrepreneurs Earl and Tom Slick, NASA astronaut Dick Scobee, and Air Force Gen. Mark Welsh will be added to the Hall of Fame and honored at an awards dinner at the GDC Technics hangar at Port San Antonio.
In addition, the foundation will recognize two local teachers with a STEM Education Excellence Award. They are Lisa Rollins, a science academic support teacher at Cody Elementary in the Northside Independent School District, and Angela Ortiz Pichardo, a STEM/aeronautics/aviation teacher at Bob Hope Elementary in the Southwest Independent School District.
Dee Howard Foundation Chairman Wayne Fagan said over 700 people are expected for the event where there also will be a display of U.S. military and civilian aircraft.
Fagan first met the aviation inventor Dee Howard in 1970 and began researching San Antonio’s aviation history in recent years.
“We knew San Antonio had a 100-year history of leadership in civil and military aviation and that that story was not known or had been forgotten,” Fagan said. “There was a lot of innovation involved, and we wanted to tell that story as a basis for continuing that tradition of excellence in innovation. My research added substance to what I already believed. It’s really remarkable in terms of the stories. It brings me to tears, the amazing stories we have.”
The honorees are chosen annually by a committee made up of foundation board members using a set of criteria that states nominees can be living or deceased and must have some connection to San Antonio. The 2019 honorees include:
Earl and Tom Slick
The son of a Texas and Oklahoma oilman, Earl Slick was 25 years old in 1948 when he formed Slick Airways, the air cargo division of the Slick Corporation, with older brother Tom, founder of the Texas Biomedical Research Institute.
With the slogan, “Ship the Slick Way – By Air,” the business was considered a novel approach when the concept of large-scale movement of goods by air was still new. Earl ran the airline while Tom served as vice president, building Slick Airways into the largest all-cargo airline in the country by 1951.
Tom Slick’s son, Chuck Slick, will attend the event and accept the honor on behalf of his father and uncle, who are both deceased.
A native of Washington state, Scobee was stationed at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio and attended San Antonio College for two years.
After receiving his commission in 1965 and his wings in 1966, Scobee served a combat tour in Vietnam, then attended the U.S. Air Force Aerospace Research Pilot School and participated in test programs logging more than 6,500 hours flying time in 45 types of aircraft.
Scobee was selected as an astronaut candidate in 1978. He first flew as a space shuttle pilot in 1984 – a mission that lasted seven days. In 1986, Scobee was spacecraft commander on the space shuttle Challenger, which exploded after launch, killing the entire crew.
Scobee’s widow, June Scobee Rodgers, will attend the event along with her son, Air Force Gen. Richard Scobee, and accept the honor.
Born and raised in San Antonio, Mark Welsh attended the U.S. Air Force Academy and went on to serve in numerous positions, including commander of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe and commander of NATO’s Air Command in Germany, associate director of military affairs at the Central Intelligence Agency, and commandant of the Air Force Academy.
In 2012, Welsh became the 20th chief of staff of the Air Force, serving as the senior uniformed Air Force officer responsible for the organization, training, and equipping of 664,000 active-duty, Guard, Reserve, and civilian forces.
As a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Welsh and other service chiefs functioned as military advisers to the Secretary of Defense, National Security Council, and the president. In 2016, he retired from the Air Force and became the dean and holder of the Edward and Howard Kruse Endowed Chair, and executive professor of the Bush School of Government and Public Service at Texas A&M University.
In 2018, four people were inducted into the Hall of Fame. They include retired Air Force combat pilot James “Robbie” Robinson, World War I flying ace Edgar Gardner Tobin, space science engineer James Burch, and Lockheed Martin CEO Marillyn Hewson.
The previous two years saw 14 people inducted, plus the Air Education and Training Command at Joint Base San Antonio Randolph and the Southwest Research Institute.
The event’s keynote speaker will be Bonnie Dunbar, who currently serves on the faculty at Texas A&M University. She is a five-time shuttle astronaut and former president and CEO of the Museum of Flight in Seattle.